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Minister's passion range from the pulpit to the canvas

May 23, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Neville West cleaves to his British heritage like a Southerner to his grits.

Despite nearly four decades of living in the United States, West, 68, has not lost the polished accent that reflects his Midlands roots.

For the past 13 years he has been pastor at Glen Furney Assembly of God Church on Old Forge Road. He and his wife, Pat, have lived in their townhouse on Antietam Drive for 10 years.

The walls, tables and buffet hold his treasures, all made by him.

His first passion is his faith. It touches everything he does. He's been an ordained minister since 1961, coming to America in 1963 and becoming an itinerant minister traveling the U.S. and Canada for nine years. He then was pastor at several churches before moving to Waynesboro in 1987.

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His second love is his painting. He delights in meticulously reproducing the works of Old Masters - like his finely detailed, life-sized copy of Canaletto's 1750 painting of the River Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral that hangs in Windsor Castle. His reproduction hangs over his dining room table. He used a book illustration as his model.

He reproduced a painting of Henry VIII that hangs in the Walker Gallery in Manchester, England, from a print.

Across from Henry in his living room is his painting of Queen Victoria, which he also did from a print. Another wall holds his reproduction of Queen Elizabeth II that West did from a photograph.

A downstairs recreation room holds his reproductions of London double-decker buses plus his painstakingly refurbished baby grand piano with its gold-leaf filigree and lettering.

He did the entire room in Wedgewood blue to reflect the wall full of Wedgewood blue plates. He and Pat add a plate to the collection every year.

His painting doesn't stop with reproductions. He also painted the outside of his church and the interior walls, painted religious scenes in the windows - at a quick glance they appear to be stained glass - and a mural behind the altar depicting the Ascension of Christ.

Music is his third love, especially hymns, gospels and spirituals that he can belt out in his pure baritone voice.

West cuts an unusual figure with his shaved head and exaggerated heavy rimmed glasses.

"I'm an individualist, I don't go with the flow," he said.

While his reproductions of English royalty and scenes can take two or three years to complete, West has learned the art of speed painting. He can cover a canvas with a landscape in 15 minutes using fast-drying acrylics.

He combines all of his skills when he does programs for his congregation, other churches, local civic and fraternal organizations and senior centers, among others.

"I think of myself as an artist, a musician and a preacher. I've performed in hundreds of churches of all denominations," he said.

"I begin with a speed painting, then I play piano and I end with a lecture on England from an Englishman's perspective," he said. "People seem to like to hear about England, and I like to talk about it.

"My programs always carry a religious message. They're part of my ministry."

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